Les gens heureux n'ont pas l'histoire

danquin

New Member
English
I've seen this phrase around in French, occasionally just there, sometimes commented on/about. I actually first heard it, though, when Spalding Gray referenced it in "Terrors of Pleasure." I'm curious what the provenance of the phrase, and whether it has any cultural/literary/idomatic sense beyond what's apparent. Also, is this the only version, or is there another way this phrase is found?

Anyone know?

Thanks in advance.
 
  • helene james

    Senior Member
    français
    I think the saying goes like this: "Les gens heureux n'ont pas d'histoire". I don't know where it comes from, I think the sense is pretty litteral, meaning something like happiness is quieter than pain...
     

    le meur

    Senior Member
    France (français)
    The real sentence is "Les gens heureux n'ont pas D'histoire". It's a smart commonplace which means : when you're happy, you don't need to dream your life, you don't need to built some châteaux en Espagne, you're not seduced by thrills or adventures. A La Fontaine's related sentence is : "Pour vivre heureux, vivons caché".
     

    danquin

    New Member
    English
    Well, on face it seems to be sa "happy people have no history/stories," (i.e., didn't really live life) or, depending on how abstract the sense "happy people DON'T MAKE history" (think of it like it saying that Napoleon, Alexander, Kepler, Socrates, etc.-- all by degrees an ill-contented, ambitious lot, are the ones who now "possess" history in general--OUR history).

    I think you're saying something that's kind of similar, but I can't tell which sense you're leaning towards. Could you give me some more clarification?
     

    danquin

    New Member
    English
    Le meur posted while I was writing the last post.

    So, le meur, you seem to be flipping it round from how I was reading it. Are you saying it's more of an admonition? An encouragement to be happy, as it leads to contentment?
     

    helene james

    Senior Member
    français
    It's history with a small h, not a big one. I doesn't mean "don't really live life", rather than their life is full per se and doen't need a plentiful of events to justify itself. Also that the stories that will be told in books, songs, etc will rather be those of unhappy people. I wouldn't think of it as an admonition though. More like a statement... It's not really the same as "pour vivre heureux vivons cachés", I think, which is an admonition.
    But as you know the stories generally end with "they lived happily ever after", rarely begin with it
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Is it that? My first reaction was "Happy people have no past" (i.e. histoire = history).

    Meaning either: all past experiences bring pain and unhappiness; or happiness depends on being able to let go of the past.
     

    le meur

    Senior Member
    France (français)
    As La Fontaine said about La Rochefoucauld, all this kind of statements are designed to leave something to guess. Even if the main sense refer to an absence of trouble, the other ones are admissible either. Anyway, those statements have no author to complain, so the meaning go deeper and more substancial as we inquire into.
     

    helene james

    Senior Member
    français
    Tu devrais juste vérifier l'accord singulier pluriel avec les sujets/verbes... the main sense refers, par ex. et "are admissible as well" plutôt qu' "either". Aussi more than plutôt que more as, je crois. Fautes d'étourderie, comme on dit, il me semble.
     

    Chimel

    Senior Member
    Français
    I think the original saying is: "Les peuples heureux n'ont pas d'histoire" (a phrase which is often quoted in relation to countries like Switzerland... although Swiss people will tell you: But we do have a long and rich history! :))

    According to several websites, Hegel should be credited with it.

    Of course, you can replace "peuples" by "gens" (especially under the influence of the double meaning of "people" in English) without changing much of the meaning. But with "gens", you rather think of individuals, families and so on, with "peuples" the focus lies on a whole nation.
     

    Xavier11222

    Senior Member
    France French
    To me, it seems to be coming from Tolstoy's opening of Anna Karenina. I don't know what the original Russian says, but you'll find "Happy families are all alike (; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way)" as an English translation.
    It's well known for being a possibly valid statement within fiction (in which descriptions cannot claim to be valid, for some scholars).
    I always hear the French phrase on "les gens heureux" with the implied next clause in mind.
    Then again, Chimel could well be right and "les peuples" could be the original agent of no history.

    Yay for Spalding Gray!
     

    doodlebugger

    Senior Member
    France
    To me, it seems to be coming from Tolstoy's opening of Anna Karenina. I don't know what the original Russian says, but you'll find "Happy families are all alike (; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way)" as an English translation.
    I fully agree with you, this is exactly how I interpret les gens heureux n'ont pas d'histoire.
    Obviously, Tolstoy was not going to write a novel about a happy family!
     

    custard apple

    Senior Member
    English
    How do you say "happy people don't carry baggage" ? in the sense of emotionally happy people don't bring along baggage into a relationship ?
     

    Chimel

    Senior Member
    Français
    How do you say "happy people don't carry baggage" ? in the sense of emotionally happy people don't bring along baggage into a relationship ?
    I don't think there is an idiomatic expression in French, but if you would say "Les gens heureux voyagent sans bagages", I think, providing the context is clear enough, that everyone would understand the idea.
     

    Novanas

    Senior Member
    English AE/Ireland
    This whole discussion reminds me of the old curse "May you live in interesting times." I forget where this curse comes from. It may be Jewish.

    What we read in history books is normally the disasters that people inflict on each other. When a people drops out of history, sometimes it's because no one is invading and destroying their country. They're happy, and so they have no history in that sense.

    If you live in interesting times, it can be because all sorts of bad things are happening around you.
     
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